Stand Up to Live Longer
Hey exercisers: Want to add years to your life? Don’t spend your downtime in front of the TV, suggests a new study in BMJ Open. Researchers found that sitting for more than three hours a day—even if you’re a regular exerciser—can shorten your life expectancy by two years. Watching more than two hours of TV a day may also take off about 1.4 years.
"Sitting is a dangerous risk factor for early death, on par with smoking and being obese," lead author Peter Katzmarzyk, PhD, a researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, told USA Today.
For the study, scientists analyzed previous research on sitting time and death from all causes, as well as government data on how much time adults spend sitting and watching TV every day. They found that nearly half of people report sitting more than six hours a day and 65 percent report spending more than two hours a day in front of the tube.
The study adds to a growing body of research on “sitting disease,” a term coined by experts to describe the link between a sedentary lifestyle and medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. People with sedentary jobs seem to be at the highest risk of early death. However, the solution can be as simple as standing more.
When people sit, their calorie-burning drops to about one calorie per minute—a third of what it would be if they stood, explains Marc Hamilton, PhD, an inactivity researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. This reduces levels of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that sucks the fat from the blood stream, causing bad “LDL” cholesterol to rise and good “HDL” cholesterol to fall.
To combat the problem, some companies such as Aetna have started offering employees treadmill desks, which allow people to work on their feet.
If standing up the entire day doesn’t appeal to you, or if your company isn’t yet outfitted with walking workstations, there are still beneficial changes you can make. Here are five ways to torch calories and keep your heart healthy at the office.
Fidget with fervor. Foot tapping, leg shaking, hair twirling, and squirming in your seat do more than annoy your officemates. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, energy expenditure was 54% higher when study participants fidgeted compared with resting on their backs. Sitting motionless burned only 4% more calories than lying prone.
Work inefficiently. Your boss may not love you for this, but inconvenience can keep you moving throughout the day, says Joan Salge Blake, RD, a clinical associate professor at Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Here’s what she suggests: Use a restroom that is on another floor from your office so you have an excuse to squeeze in some stairs. Adjust your printer settings so that the pages pop out at the farthest copy machine from your desk, and print items separately and retrieve them one at a time. Empty your recycling or shredding bin both at noon and at the end of the day.
Climb every hour. “Set a timer on your computer to alert you every hour,” says Blake. “When the timer goes off, walk up and down three flights of stairs. This will take you about 3 minutes and at the end of an 8-hour work day, you will have walked for 24 minutes.”
Walk and talk. Get a wireless headset and make a habit of pacing or walking in place any time you’re on a call, suggests Blake. Keeping active throughout the day is more effective for weight loss or weight maintenance than being sedentary during the day and then spending an hour at the gym, says Manuel Villacorta, RD, creator of Eating Free, a diet and weight-management program.
Meet on the go. Instead of gathering in a windowless conference room, take your small meeting to the sidewalk, walking trail, or the corridors of your office building to add a bit of exercise to your meeting agenda.
For 20 more ways to make your desk job healthier, click here!
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